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Riverside County







J. Eugene Copeland, president of the Riverside County Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Riverside, which was founded in 1917, has also long been active in the orange industry, developing his home place of twenty acres from the wild state to its present perfect bearing condition. His grove of navel oranges is one of the finest in the county. His residence, a handsome and commodious two-story building, is located in one corner of the property, on the southwest corner of Blaine street and “Chicago avenue, and is surrounded by fine trees, palms, flowers and shrubbery, which were planted by his wife and himself, and attract the admiring attention of all who pass the place. Thirty years ago Mr. and Mrs. Copeland planted a slip of a seedling English walnut tree, and today this is probably the largest of its kind at Riverside, having a magnificent spread of seventy-five feet and yielding about three hundred pounds of nuts annually.

Mr. Copeland was born on a farm in Fond du Lac county, Wisconsin, August 19, 1862, being the only child of Justin M. and Mary Ellen (French) Copeland, natives of New Hampshire and Maine, respectively, and both of English ancestry and Revolutionary stock. Justin M. Copeland, a representative of the eighth generation of the family in America, was the son of a Methodist minister. He was a scholar and spent his life in educational work, teaching school in many states and traveling all over the country in search of a climate in which he would not be subjected to the rigors of a severe winter. During this period he was superintendent of schools in Key West, Florida. Finally he came to California. Reaching this state in May, 1881, he realized that his long search was ended, and it was under the sunny skies of this Southland that he spent the remainder of his life. He secured a school on Central avenue in Arlington district during the fall of 1881, and taught it for one year, when he went to Orange county and continued the same work there until 1891. His eyesight then commencing to fail him, he went to Los Angeles and took the agency of the Standard Dictionary, continuing that connection until forced to relinquish it on account of his eyes. During his last years he led a retired life and passed away March 25, 1915, at the advanced age of eighty. He was a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and was highly esteemed wherever known. His wife has also passed away.

In the acquirement of his early education J. Eugene Copeland attended the public schools of Kansas and of Orange county, California, receiving his more advanced intellectual training as a student at the University of Southern California, from which he was graduated in 1888. He was interested with his father in farming in Orange county until 1895, when he took up his residence on the home place, 601 Chicago avenue, comprising twenty acres on the edge of Riverside, which he had bought in 1882, and here he has since been engaged in the growing of oranges on an extensive scale. Mr. Copeland is also interested in thirty acres of sugar beet land at Oxnard, Ventura county, California. In 1917 he became a charter member and vice president of the newly organized Riverside County Mutual Fire Insurance Company, of which he was made president two ears later, having thus served to the present time. Asa Cox, the first president died April 24, 1932. The present secretary and manager of the insurance company is Edwin F. Wolever. Mr. Copeland is also a director of the Monte Vista Packing Company, the Riverside Ice Company and other corporations and has long enjoyed high standing among the prosperous business men of his adopted county.

On the 14th of September, 1889, in Los Angeles, Mr. Copeland was united in marriage to Carrie W. Willson, a native of Virginia and a daughter of the late J. A. Willson of Santa Ana. Mrs. Copeland’s family is of Revolutionary stock and of Scotch-Irish descent. Mr. Copeland gives his allegiance to the republican party but has never sought political preferment. He is an elder in Calvary Presbyterian Church of Riverside, to which his wife also belongs. An earlier biographer wrote: “Mr. and Mrs. Copeland lead an ideal existence in the midst of their beautiful surroundings. While it has taken hard and unremitting work to develop their property to its present high state of cultivation, the results are so satisfactory that neither of them regrets the efforts expended on their home. They are held in high esteem by their many friends, and are fine representatives of the elder generation of substantial citizens of the Gem City.”


Transcribed 4-17, 2012 Marilyn R. Pankey.

*According to stated age at death this man died 2 years before his company was founded and was 53, not 80 as mentioned at time of death. MRP


Source: California of the South Vol. II, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 301-303, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles,  Indianapolis.  1933.

© 2012  Marilyn R. Pankey.